An Anderson County man was among those pardoned by Tennessee Governor Bill Lee on Thursday.
Lee announced executive clemency decisions for 17 offenders “who have demonstrated a successful path to rehabilitation and established a new process for individuals seeking clemency for drug-free school zone convictions.” The power of executive clemency includes exonerations, pardons, and commutations, or a reduction in a person’s sentence.
Brandon Benson was the Anderson County man who was pardoned.
A copy of the pardon posted online said Benson was convicted of aggravated assault in Shelby County in January 2005 and sentenced to three years of probation. The conviction and other misdemeanor convictions were the result of behaviors related to substance abuse, the pardon said.
Lee said executive clemency was justified in the case because Benson has “turned his life around since 2012 and is committed to his recovery, his family, and his community.” Benson earned his bachelor’s degree in religion from Liberty University in 2019, and he mentors other people with substance abuse issues as a drug and alcohol counselor at HOPE of East Tennessee.
“Several community members attest to Mr. Benson’s rehabilitation and positive community contributions, and his voting rights have been restored,” Lee said in the pardon.
The Tennessee Board of Parole recommended pardoning Benson, the governor said, pardoning the 2005 aggravated assault conviction.
A press release said executive clemency decisions are made in consultation with the Tennessee Board of Parole, which issues non-binding recommendations for each case.
“After reviewing the unique merits of each case, I have made the decision to grant these individuals executive clemency,” Lee said in the press release. “These men and women have shown they are ready for productive lives beyond their sentences, and I appreciate the Board of Parole’s consideration in this process.”
There are three types of executive clemency:
- Exoneration—a finding by the governor that an applicant did not commit the crime for which he or she was convicted.
- Pardon—an official statement of forgiveness of an offense, typically granted to an applicant who completed his or her sentence more than five years ago and who has demonstrated good cause for forgiveness.
- Commutation—a reduction in an applicant’s sentence.
Additional information on executive clemency can be found here.
Here are the executive clemency grants announced by the governor on Thursday:
- Adam Braseel of Grundy County – Executive Action: Exoneration
- Brandon Benson of Anderson County – Executive Action: Pardon
- Nathaniel Boyd of Shelby County – Executive Action: Pardon
- Relerford Brown of Fentress County – Executive Action: Pardon
- Charles Diffie of South Carolina – Executive Action: Pardon
- Zenobia Dobson of Knox County – Executive Action: Pardon
- Michael Graham of Perry County – Executive Action: Pardon
- Tina Jackson of Haywood County – Executive Action: Pardon
- Eugene Lee of Florida – Executive Action: Pardon
- Quantel Lindsey of Georgia – Executive Action: Pardon
- Jasbir Mann of Massachusetts – Executive Action: Pardon
- Kevin Nunley of Bedford County – Executive Action: Pardon
- Charles Sanderfur of Davidson County – Executive Action: Pardon
- Kenney Simpson of Sullivan County – Executive Action: Pardon
- Mindy Dodd of Rutherford County – Executive Action: Commutation to immediate parole eligibility
- Jamie Grimes of Davidson County – Executive Action: Commutation to immediate parole eligibility
- Charles Hall of Shelby County – Executive Action: Commutation to parole eligibility upon completing certain programming
Proclamations granting individual clemencies can be viewed here.
Updated Drug-Free School Zone Process
The press release said the Governor’s Office and the Tennessee Department of Correction will introduce a new clemency review process for drug-free school zone offenses committed prior to September 1, 2020.
“This action follows legislation passed in the 2020 legislative session to reduce the school zone radius to 500 feet and to allow stiffer penalties only where vulnerable populations, such as children, were exposed to illicit drug activity,” the press release said.
It said the new process will speed up the review of convictions for those sentenced under prior Tennessee law to determine whether they merit consideration for a review of their sentence under the new law. There are currently 335 people incarcerated for drug-free school zone offenses committed prior to September 1, 2020.
To qualify, individuals must not have been involved in the sale or distribution to a minor or have incurred a drug-related disciplinary infraction within the past three years, including positive drug screens or dismissal from a treatment program.
Individuals who meet the qualifying criteria may apply here.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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